Spotting Bengali Food

The stand out qualities of Bengali food from Calcutta Kitchen cookbook

calcutta-kitchen.jpgAs the days go by, I am spurred on to help identify real Indian food from mass produced junk. As a Bengali from Kolkata, I think it’s a good idea to start with a bit on the cuisine from back where I belong.

Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of West Bengal, the Indian state to the east of the country, beside Bangladesh. Better known for Mother Teresa, the Black Hole and Eden Gardens, its varied and delicious food often gets overlooked.

Shame. In Bengal, food is of utmost importance. Everything else comes second. As Simon Parkes puts it in “The Calcutta Kitchen”:

Once, a good friend told me, “what you’ve got to remember about us Bengalis is that we’re only really interested in three things: educating our children, reading books and food.” And in some ways that’s it in a nutshell.

Bengalis are also obsessed with their bowel function, but I don’t want to gross you out.

Udit Sarkhel, the co-writer of “The Calcutta Kitchen” has identified some real stand out qualities of Bengali food. Here are my top five, in his words:

  1. Bengalis are inveterate eaters of fish, and no good meal would be complete without fish or prawns
  2. Mustard is used as greens, as ground seeds and as a pungent, pure oil which is the principal cooking medium
  3. Ginger, cummin and chilli are the other spice mainstays; garlic is more of a flavouring of East Bengal, now Bangladesh
  4. Sugar is used a lot in savoury cooking
  5. Spice combinations are important , primarily garam masala and panch phoron

This Thursday, 19th October, Udit and Simon are speaking at a Bengali food evening at the British Museum. A must for food lovers and other curious beings. I believe some of their recipes will be dished out as finger foods after the talk. Tickets are still available if you want a more hands on Bengali food lesson.

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    This entry was posted on Sunday, October 15th, 2006 at 11:45 am and is filed under Basics, Chit chat, Highlights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.